Completion of Proof
Zaccai Curtis - Piano, Luques Curtis - Bass,
Ralph Peterson - Drums, Donald Harrison - Alto Sax, Brian Lynch - Trumpet
Brothers Luques (bass) and Zaccai (piano) Curtis follow in the rich family tradition of jazz. The music has often been the beneficiary of sibling bonds. Look no further than the Adderley brothers (Cannonball & Nat), the Heath Brothers (Percy, Jimmy, and Albert (Tootie), the Brecker Brothers, or more recently the Roney brothers (Wallace & Antoine), the Parrott sisters (Nicki and Lisa), and the Jensen sisters (Christine & Ingrid). Jazz music has frequently been the family tie that binds. And as with the Curtis Brothers those are also siblings that recorded and performed together. Based on the brilliance of Completion of Proof, clearly Luques and Zaccai Curtis have joined that auspicious tradition.
Significant clues to the Curtis Brothers desire for self-determination can be found in not only the declarative title of this date - Completion of Proof, but also in the bold moniker they've chosen for their record label, Truth Revolution. There is an obvious sense of the Curtis Brothers on a quest for artistic truth, and in the case of their label they're just as obviously seeking freewill in the business side of their recorded life as well. In this time of artists eschewing the tired, old pie-in-the-sky sense of waiting for a mythical record "deal," Luques and Zaccai have clearly set out on a path of autonomy on the recorded side of their respective and collective careers.
For Completion of Proof, the Curtis Brothers have enlisted a powerhouse crew of musicians - many of whom serve as mentors to the Curtis Brothers - including drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr.,Brian Lynch on trumpet, and their Artist Collective mentor, Jimmy Greene on saxophones. The date also includes alto saxophonist, "Big Chief" Donald Harrison. It was Harrison who gave the Brothers their first touring band experience. "He really showed us how to act, play, and what not to do on the road," says Zaccai. The underrated fire-breathing saxophonist Joe Ford "has always been an influence from a very early age." The brothers play in Lynch's band and alongside Ford with Jerry González Fort Apache Band as occasional subs for Andy González and Larry Willis. PercussionistsRogerio Boccato, Pedro Martinez, and Reinaldo De Jesus help bring further folkloric Pan African flavor to the date.
In developing this venture the brothers had this group of mentors in mind. "We wrote all the music to fit this band," says Zaccai. "We thought of the sound of each band member and tried to feature each one in the music. We set a date and nailed the music at the studio; no rehearsals and all within 1 or 2 takes! These guys are really the best jazz musicians alive, and we are honored to be blessed with their presence on this recording."
Throughout this recording there is a strong drum feel, which is echoed in Russ Musto's authoritative liner notes suggesting an Art Blakey Jazz Messengers atmosphere. Zaccai confirms this impression."The music revolves around the drummer. We designed the music specifically for Ralph Peterson to play drums. Ralph has such an extensive grasp of the complete jazz language and, like Art Blakey and Tony Williams, always pushes the rest of the band to push themselves. I added the other drums (bata, Afro-Brazilian percussion, and Barrilles) because I knew that Ralph also has extensive knowledge of Latin music."
The original music of Completion of Proof speaks in clear, unified tones; each track is carefully plotted out thematically, and delivered with the kind of high artistry one would expect from this impressive cast of musicians. A brave man who literally took on the Chinese army alone inspired the brisk opener "Protestor". The clarion call urgency of the horn-rich theme statement is bold and declarative. They follow that with a song for their niece "Madison"; if you listen carefully at the end of each 'A' section the horns speak Madison's name! All eight tracks bear a sense of fresh originality in their conception. "The Wrath," "Mass Manipulation," and "Manifest Destiny" comprise a Manifest Destiny suite. These are carefully programmed and plotted selections that continue to bear fruit and further reveal themselves with each listen.
The brothers have recorded with a notable discography of cohorts, including Gary Burton, Orrin Evans, Donald Harrison, Sean Jones, Brian Lynch & Eddie Palmieri, and John Santos among others. They dubbed their 2010 debut brother act Blood - Spirit - Land - Water - Freedom (Truth Revolution).Completion of Proof is another title whose definition is omni-directional. Quizzed on how the titleCompletion of Proof compliments the sumptuous music they serve up, Zaccai informed: "The title has a lot to do with how this project turned out. We had our hypothesis, completed the experiment which was a success in many ways... Q.E.D. or Completion of Proof." The disc crackles with a vigor rooted squarely in the hard bop tradition, though most assuredly with diverse 21st century generational twists and turns.
The Curtis Brothers artistic journey began in Hartford, Connecticut. There NEA Jazz Master Jackie McLean and wife Dollie's exceptional urban cultural development center the Artists Collective nurtured the brothers' early musical impulses, "then David Santoro at the Hartford Academy of the Arts," says Zaccai. Eventually both brothers continued their studies in Boston, Zaccai at the New England Conservatory, and Luques at Berklee College of Music.
Asked how their background and upbringing influenced the sundry aspects of Completion of Proof, Zaccai referred to the date as "American Classical Music in every way. Jazz is an interesting study to me. It is a science in all respects, but "soul" is the base. We named the CD Completion of Proofor in Latin Q.E.D. - quod erat demonstrandum - because this is how scientists indicated that they have proved their theory correct."
For the Curtis Brothers, Completion of Proof is an affirmation of the basic root sources of jazz. Their music is rife with the blues, swing rhythms in recognition of the Africa-Caribbean-New Orleans lineage, and the basic core elements that make the music such a spicy, hard bop melting pot. In many ways the music on Completion of Proof is for the Curtis Brothers a refutation of what they view from some of their peers as a denial or dismissal of those root sources. "Fast forward to today's modern jazz and you are lucky to hear just one of those elements come from a performance or recording. Blues harmonies seem to be replaced with simplified classical harmonies. Drums and rhythms have been mixed down in the modern recording so you can barely hear them! Swing has been ripped from the music. In most cases there are no elements of the jazz language... never mind bebop!
"This CD is a response to this modern, swing-less, no-language - 'jazz' - that the labels are pushing, just like the Hard Bop response to Cool Jazz in the 50s and 60s," declares Zaccai.
The brothers view Completion of Proof as more of a different facet of their approach than an advance on their evolutionary scale. For them this release represents how they grew up under the influence of music ranging from salsa and jazz, to classical and funk. Completion of Proof bears a strong Latin signature, though according to Zaccai not quite as vivid as expressed on Blood - Spirit - Land - Water - Freedom. "That music was a Latin Jazz project, but defined for a smaller band," the pianist suggests. Completion of Proof is a free spirited project. "The music was meant for us to go where we want with it. It's great to play with the masters on this recording and to see how they bring it to life! We hope each CD gets better as we grow older and study more. We are patient though, we know you can't fake experience."